A National Review of Crime in Belize
The top brass of the police department gathered today in the capital for the first conference dubbed COMSTAT. The intention is to move to a system that will provide the department with a better understanding of crime statistics. This information will be used to forecast and prevent crime before criminals commit offences. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Today regional commanders and officers in charge of police precincts from across the country converged at the Police Training Academy in Belmopan for the first ever national COMSTAT and anti-crime campaign launch. The meeting will address criminal activities from a national rather than a regional perspective.
Col. George Lovell (Ret’d), C.E.O., Ministry of National Security (Police)
“It comes about just after I’ve had a week about citizen security awareness in Santiago, Chile. I just came back on Saturday and they operate under a very similar system—a system that I certainly wanted to bring back and see if we could have adopted what I have seen in Chile and use that here in Belize. This helps for us to analyse all the crime statistics that we have for us to look at it and have our best minds in this business to come together in one room and for us to plan how we can use the information that we have had, using the COMSTAT system, and go out there and provide an even better, safer community for our citizens and our people going forward.”
But is the department reinventing the wheel with the national COMSTAT exercise? Data is already being collected from various regions and compiled in an effort to create strategic plans to mitigate crime. So is a national forum a duplication of efforts?
Chester Williams, Acting ComPol
“When you have for example JIT that collects the national statistics, it is not done in such a way as with COMSTAT. We need to as a department to see how we are doing in different parts of the country and what this national COMSTAT does, is that it gives us the ability to be able to see what is happening there, there and there and we can then put the commanders to task to ensure that in areas where we see slippages that they put mechanisms in place to be able to rectify whatever slippages we are seeing. It also gives us an opportunity to hold the commanders accountable. We cannot have commanders out there at such a senior rank and we cannot hold them accountable; they must account for what happens within their area.”
The idea is that the national forum, which will be held either monthly or quarterly, will assist to lower the number of major crimes such as murders, burglaries and robberies across the country. This looks at the many initiatives currently in place and its effectiveness to tackle crime. Acting Commissioner of Police Chester Williams says that it also provides the department with a report card on the performance of senior officers.
“The regional commander in the regional COMSTAT will be able to critique the performance of his precincts or formations and see what can be done to more effectively address the crime problem within the respective formation or precincts. Now with the national COMSTAT it is now the regional commanders who will be doing the presentations and the numbers are looked at in an aggregate fashion in the sense that I am not interested in seeing the performance of the precincts or the formations, I am more interested in seeing the performance of the regional commanders. Another advantage to the national COMSTAT is that it gives all the regional commanders the opportunity to see what is happening countrywide and with that they will be able to develop strategies to deal with transient criminals, as you will know that is the problem we are having where criminals are moving from one area to the other.”
…that aside, for the officers to carry out their duties effectively, there is the need for support from government. C.E.O. George Lovell says that the ministry has already seen gaps that will be filled in order to realize a turnaround in the rate of crime.
Col. George Lovell (Ret’d)
“There is in fact…it is not just we telling our police officers and men and women going out there and now reduce the crime rate. We have to equally match that effort with the resources that are needed for them to provide us with the kind of results that we are demanding from them. We can’t just go and make demands without meeting them halfway and giving them the kind of support that is needed for them to provide the goods.”
Crime Stats: Major Crimes Up, but not in South Side Belize City
Today at its Training Academy in Belmopan, the top brass of the Police Department gathered to look at criminal activities in the country, from a national standpoint. According to records, the murder count crept up for the first part of this year and it is dangerously close to 2017’s murder count of one hundred and forty-two. Today, we asked Acting Commissioner of Police Chester Williams to give us an update on the stats on major crimes ahead of the official release. Williams says while Belize District will undoubtedly top the charts, south side Belize City is registering a decrease in criminal activity compared to the rest of the Eastern Division jurisdiction.
Chester Williams, Acting ComPol
“While I am not going to give you the figures. I will tell you that most of the regions are down. The region that will see the highest increase will be Belize District. And in the past, the increase in Belize District was attributed to south side. But I will tell you that south side is the only division in Eastern Division region that has a significant reduction and that goes to show the effectiveness of our operations on the south side. The rural and San Pedro are attributing to the increase in the Belize District and so we certainly have to look at what can be done to allay those concerns within region two and region three. We know it is not easy; sometimes it requires us to having to play with the figures and see where we can put most of our resources.”